I was brought up to love being Jewish and living a Jewish life. I had the privilege of having a home in which Judaism was loved and studied and experienced with joy and intellectual curiosity. I was encouraged to think for myself, to examine ideas before accepting or rejecting them. I have always loved to teach, to challenge and to go on examining and testing my ideas.
I am an individual. Some have called me a chameleon because I can fit in almost anywhere, from Cambridge University to Mir Yeshivah. Others call me a maverick. I take that as a compliment. I am committed to living a Torah life. I am passionate about Jewish Law, Halacha. I engage and struggle with it. I do not feel comfortable with denominations or closed societies or anyone who thinks that there is only one way. Although I do enjoy those communities that are intense and passionate.
I wholeheartedly support the idea of a Jewish homeland but I believe in democracy and equality. I dislike politics (everywhere) and I fall between the extremes of Left and Right. I do not approve of religion interfering with government. However, I see no reason why any group should not express its political and religious views in the public or political arena.
I am tolerant. Accepting. I approve of free choice and individuality. Though I recognize the necessity of balancing individuality with community and universality.
I present my views as an expression of who I am. To offer a personal expression of Jewish life and another paradigm of Jewishness to add to the richness of the rest.
I am not interested in trying to proselytize. I welcome respectful challenge, debate and engagement. I care about people and try to help anyone who thinks my views and religious approach might be of some help. I am not judgmental ‘though of course I have my own received values.
My weekly writings are informal. They are concerned with religion, culture, history and current affairs - anything I find interesting or relevant. They are designed to entertain and to stimulate. Disagreement is always welcome.
I was born in Manchester, England, the eldest son of Rabbi Kopul Rosen and Bella Rosen. My thinking was strongly influenced by my father, who rejected fundamentalist and obscurantist approaches in favour of being open to the best the secular world has to offer while remaining committed to religious life. I was first educated at Carmel College, the school my father had founded based on this philosophical orientation. At my father's direction, I also studied at Be'er Yaakov Yeshiva in Israel (1957–1958 and 1960). I then went on to Merkaz Harav Kook (1961), and Mir Yeshiva (1965–1968) in Jerusalem, where I received semicha from Rabbi Chaim Leib Shmuelevitz in addition to Rabbi Dovid Povarsky of Ponevezh and Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Shapiro of Yeshivat Be'er Ya'akov. In between I attended Cambridge University (1962–1965), graduating with a degree in Moral Sciences.
I began my full-time rabbinic career in 1968 at the Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation in Glasgow.
In 1971, I was asked to become headmaster of Carmel College, upon the sudden resignation of the headmaster who had succeeded my father after his death in 1962. I was appointed principal in 1980. Carmel College, which was founded as a boys' boarding school, had become coeducational in 1969. Constant financial pressure, as well as difficulties in finding competent Jewish staff, eventually led me to resign in 1984.
I took a sabbatical in Israel, where I lectured at the WUJS Institute in Arad and at Ben Gurion University of the Negev with Rabbi Pinchas Hacohen Peli. While at Ben Gurion, I began work on my PhD on Wittgenstein and Religion, which I completed in 1994.
After this sabbatical, I returned to the rabbinate, choosing a small but independent Orthodox synagogue in central London called The Western Synagogue.
When, in 1990, the Western Synagogue merged with Marble Arch Synagogue under the auspices of the United Synagogue, I declined to come under the authority of the mainstream religious authorities. After helping as a temporary rabbi during the transition, I moved to Antwerp, Belgium, where I became chairman of the Faculty for Comparative Religion (F.V.G.). For the next seven years, I taught at Brussels under the aegis of C.E.J.I.
In 1997, I moved to New York, where I worked as an educational and rabbinic consultant, teaching and advising schools and communities on developing new programs and improving their performance.
I returned to London in 1999 to head the British branch of the Yakar Educational Foundation, which had been founded by my younger brother, Michael (Mickey) Rosen, to further the teachings of our late father. At the same time, I became rabbi of the Yakar Kehilla, the synagogue associated with the foundation.
In 2003, my brother and I sold the buildings and assets of the Yakar UK location, applying the funds toward the establishment of a Yakar location in Tel Aviv that would be run by former Yakar UK Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman, in addition to its primary location in Jerusalem.
In 2006, I resigned from Yakar Kehilla, to focus more time on new writing endeavours.
In 2007, I retired to New York City, but in 2009 accepted the position of rabbi to the Persian Jewish Center of Manhattan. I also teach classes at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan. I continue to write and lecture.